LDRD projects come in a range of sizes, address a variety of scientific and technical challenges, and cover the full array of topics of interest to the Laboratory. To understand the individual projects, it is helpful to know how they are categorized into project types based on size, purpose, and focus, as described below.

Strategic Initiative

The SI category, which is open to all Laboratory scientific, engineering, and programmatic staff, focuses on innovative research and development activities that address specific, important scientific or technological challenges that have high potential for strategic impact in areas outlined by the Laboratory’s strategic plan. These projects significantly enhance the Laboratory’s science and technology base, and are usually larger and more technically challenging than those in the other categories, requiring large, interdisciplinary teams. All new and current SIs must be aligned with at least one of the mission focus areas or underlying science, technology, and engineering core competencies.

Exploratory Research

The ER category is designed to help fulfill the strategic research and development needs of a Laboratory directorate and must also support and be aligned with the Laboratory’s strategic plan. As with all the LDRD project categories, ER proposals must meet the criteria for intellectual merit used across the scientific community. This means that while exploring creative and original concepts, the proposed activity must be of importance to advancing knowledge, capability, and understanding within its own field or across different fields.

Laboratory-Wide Competition

Projects in the LW category emphasize innovative research concepts and undergo limited management filtering to encourage the creativity of individual researchers. The LW competition is open to all Livermore staff in programmatic, scientific, engineering, and technical support areas. Direct alignment with the Laboratory’s strategic investment strategy is not required for LW proposals. However, in order to be funded, all LW proposals must be relevant to one or more missions of the DOE and NNSA.

Feasibility Study

This special project category, FS, provides researchers with the flexibility to propose relatively small, short-term projects to determine the feasibility of a particular technical approach or concept for addressing a mission-relevant science and technology challenge. To increase its responsiveness to Laboratory scientists and engineers, the LDRD Program funds FS projects throughout the year, with a one-year funding limit.

Project Topics: Mission Focus and Core Competencies

Although LDRD projects often address more than one scientific discipline, each project is assigned to 1 of 12 topical categories aligned with the Laboratory’s science and technology investment strategy. The research categories include 5 mission focus areas, which represent the application of the Laboratory's research, and 7 core competencies, which represent the areas of scientific and technological expertise in which the Laboratory must stay at the forefront to meet its mission needs.

The five mission focus areas are:

  1. Chemical and Biological Security
  2. Cyber Security, Space, and Intelligence
  3. Energy and Climate Security
  4. Inertial Fusion Science and Technology
  5. Stockpile Stewardship Science

The seven core competencies are:

  1. Advanced Materials and Manufacturing
  2. Bioscience and Bioengineering
  3. Earth and Atmospheric Science
  4. High-Energy-Density Science
  5. High-Performance Computing, Simulation, and Data Science
  6. Lasers and Optical Science and Technology
  7. Nuclear, Chemical, and Isotopic Science and Technology